My life was too busy at the time this came out, so I’m seeing it for the first time on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Addams Family Values, from 1993, obviously a sequel to the successful The Addams Family from two years previous. These, to be sure, are based on the TV series from the 1960s of the same name. Finally, the TV series sprang from a cartoon theme developed by Charles Addams. I was never during all this time a stranger to the Addams Family, being acquainted through a collection of coffee table books kept by my mother’s youngest sister.
When this title first popped up in trailers on TV I was dead sure where the producers got the title. At the time the rivalry between the Republican and Democratic parties had driven the Republicans to elevate “family values” to the front of the debate. Republicans were all for “family values.” Obviously Democrats were not. Anyhow, cartoonist Matt Groening came out with the cartoon below as a way of illustrating the value of politicizing family values. This was a year before the movie, and nobody can blame me for making the connection.
That done, I’m getting details from Wikipedia, and I’m not going to dive into the plot. This production exists purely to throw sand in the face of traditional American values, and treat us all to a darker view. We start with the opening scenes, where the Addams wife, Morticia (Anjelica Huston), announces she is going to have a baby. Right now. Husband Gomez Addams (Raúl Juliá) rushes her to the hospital, where the Addams siblings, Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Wednesday (Christina Ricci) discuss the coming event with a straight-life blond girl, who expounds on the stork and cabbage patch theory. Wednesday concludes the discussion by revealing her parents had sex. It’s the iconic scene from the movie.
And baby Addams is born, and he looks much like Gomez. As the newcomer to the family, he is resented by the other children, who decide one of them needs to go, terminally. They devise devilish ways to dispose of young Addams, all falling short.
The parents decide what is needed is a nanny to look after the baby, and they hire the evil Deborah “Debbie” Jellinsky (Joan Cusack), after a few comical false starts. Sexy Debbie has killed her previous husbands for their money and now has eyes on Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd).
Debbie vamps the innocent uncle, while taking the precaution of disposing of the older children, who see clearly through her scheme. She convinces Gomez and Morticia the children need to go to summer camp, a side adventure that takes up half the remainder of the plot.
Summer camp is the nightmare we all recall as children. It’s a camp for the privileged and the pampered, and the Addams kids are going to fit in here like a toad in your soup.
Yow! We meet the camp counselors to end all camp counselors, unnaturally bright and sufficiently overbearing. Peter MacNicol is impossible to miss as Professor Larry Fleinhardt, years later in NUMB3RS. Here MacNicol is Gary Granger, who, along with his wife Becky Martin-Granger (Christine Baranski), make a mockery of American societal presumptions.
It’s a flashback to Revenge of the Nerds, as the misfits of Camp Chippewa revolt and disassemble all the presumptions.
Of course, Debbie’s evil plan gets unraveled by happenstance and bad karma, and the Addams family reunites within their dark and disjoint world. There is a final scene you will need to have previously seen Carrie (by Stephen King) to appreciate. It’s a killer.
So why am I reviewing this as a Bad Movie Wednesday? People, this is not a serious flick. Addams Family Values didn’t even wave as the Academy Awards passed it by, standing alongside the freeway. Box office was down significantly from the The Addams Family, the plight of so many attempts at feeding off past success. What as fresh in 1991 lost some shine by 1993.